It’s probably abundantly clear – because I clearly mentioned it several times – that back in December I was extremely fortunate to be able to get back to my hometown of Adelaide and spend a few weeks there, soaking up the sun and spending time with friends & family.
Organising relaxing holidays has never been my special subject, and this was no exception: there were only 19 days or so available to catch up with everyone, and so the mission was timetabled rigorously. At this point it should be obvious that I intend to describe more or less what I did, and you may be thinking “Oh bloody hell, do I have to read about every single person that idiot went for a beer with for 19 days?!”. And of course the answer is “Yes”.
- Upon arriving in Melbourne my chauffeur was the ebullient Mr Brian Polli, who was kind enough to let me crash in the spare room overnight. As befitting any welcoming home from the upper regions of the globe, Brian & Olivia spoilt me with a steak dinner at Footscray’s Station Hotel – a mighty fine steak, and happily they had Little Creatures on tap also: a sight for sore eyes!
- On my first evening in Adelaide a band of distinguished gentlemen gathered to celebrate Mat’s buck’s night – starting off at Chessar Cellars, we made our way through a few pre-dinner refreshments before moving on to one of Adelaide’s best Indian restaurants – the Jasmin – for an excellent Indian banquet. They’d put us in the upstairs section, which I’m not sure whether was for reasons of privacy, noise control, or just because they thought a buck’s night implied the venue needs hosing out afterwards, however we conducted ourselves with dignity and civility becoming of our station. Finally we moved on to Hindley Street bar The Apothecary to see what their whisky selection was like. Not bad, for the colonies – I made do with demolishing their bottle of Macallan 18, before discovering a new dark rum which I’ve fallen deeply for – Ron Zacapa 23.
- The Saturday involved a quick trip up to Bridgewater to join the Adelaide Morris Men for their Christmas party, but this was to be a fleeting visit as I was required at the wedding rehearsal in town. After this, Bruce required a lift back up to Bridgewater, so then we returned to the AMM party, then buzzed around to Belair to collect Patrick, went back into town again to share some homebrews with Alex & Mat, then out for the time-honoured custom of a yiros, and then dropped Pat back in the hills again. So we managed to see a lot of the Freeway that day, anyway.
- To follow any buck’s night of course there’s a wedding, and Mat & Gemma picked a gorgeous day to be wed adjacent to the Adelaide University footbridge. It was a very nice ceremony, with the Bride & Groom looking well turned out & happy, and it was a huge buzz to see so many old friends together for the first time in ages. We moved on to the Mortlock Library for the reception, at a grand banqueting table where we enjoyed excellent company, very nice food, and some absolute class-A plonk. Well done there Matty.
- Dad & I went out for coffee and were joined by his former teaching colleague & my long-time drinking buddy, Whisky Bill. Couldn’t get a word in edgewise with that pair about, but it was interesting listening to their various analyses of South Australian politics in the 1970’s.
- Marty took up the co-pilot’s seat in the Getz to pop in to The Tivoli for lunch with the ever-effervescent Daniella. We only really get to catch up for lunch sporadically (every 3 years or so!), but it’s always good to spend an hour or so shooting the breeze with her.
- Nicko, Luko, Marty, Roie, Rohan & I met up for a couple of beers and what turned out to include some excellent pizzas at the Griffin’s Head on Hindmarsh Square. It was a little unsettling that the Academy Cinemas had closed down, but then progress is like that. At least they’ve turned the Griff back into a pub again (as opposed to the neon-fronted atrocity it was for so long). Coincidentally we ran into my Uncle Alan, who I’d only been trying to track down a phone number for that very afternoon. Spooky. But then, Adelaide’s like that.
- Not much happened in Adelaide on Tuesday, other than me sodding off to Canberra for a couple of days – but that’s another story.
- The Adelaide Morris Men, having not already had enough of me, invited me to join them at practice on Thursday night, which was fun and educational – a stark reminder of how much my style has changed since dancing with Westminster. Fairly early into the piece I felt my left calf muscle pop (not badly, thankfully), so was rotated out of dancing duties unfortunately. Happily though I managed to convince them to have a post-practice beer at The Wheatsheaf: our former regular haunt, and a place where Many Excellent Beers are sold. Another Adelaidean coincidence was to run into Kylie, thus saving me another phonecall.
- Friday afternoon meant lunch with Trudy at Rundle Street vegetarian mecca, “Vego & Lovin’ It!”. Haven’t been in there in years, but the place still maintains its charm, style and quality. And more importantly, I got to spend a couple of hours chatting to Trudy.
- Couldn’t spend all day there gumflapping however, as the next job to do was go out to cousin Judith’s place to retrieve a load of boxes of stuff which I had in storage: when we packed it all I was uncertain how long I’d be in the UK, but now – 5 and 1/2 years on – it seemed silly to keep a huge collection of mismatched bedclothes, towels, kitchenware, and who knows what else.
- There was a few minutes to pop in at Alex & Leanne’s place to test out his latest homebrew, as well as getting to chat with Mat, Gemma, Bruce & Ange as well. Alex’s beer is nothing short of phenomenal, and I’d like to record here publicly my willingness to assist with any further tasting required, should practicality dictate.
- Finally (it was a big Friday!) I was invited for dinner at Chateau Eldo, and once again had the pleasure of spending an evening chatting with Brett & Louise, and learning of what they & their family have been up to of recent years. Needless to say, there was also an epic amount of Star Wars quoting going on, as befits such an occasion (Brett & I were once bet a large sum of money that we couldn’t go a full 30 minutes without quoting a line from the Star Wars trilogy – we made it, but only just… in fact we mainly sat silent for naught but a whimper for most of it).
- Saturday was something of an epic: Spiro & I decided that a fairly economical use of time in the interests of catching up with people was to install at a pub for the afternoon and whoever had time could swing by & say hello, so at 12:30 in the afternoon we took up position out the from of North Adelaide’s bru-temple, The Wellington, and waited to see what would happen. We had what seemed like a smallish horde through, and left the premises a full 12 hours later. I managed to rack up a bar tab that was over a foot long, and we played on with whisky & YouTube videos of Daffy Duck cartoons (and, of course, The Three Little Bops) at Nick & Kelly’s place. It was AWESOME. I can’t even begin to list who turned up – partially for space, but also in part because some of the latter sections of the evening are a little hazy – but it was an absolute riot to see so many people, and my favourite phrase of the afternoon was “OH MY GOD?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN YEARS!”.
- Sunday, by necessity, was a far more subdued effort – however there was still a bit of partying to be done, so off to Spiro’s Dad’s 80th birthday bash I went. It was the tail end of things, but it was good to see John & have a beer with him.
- Wasting no time on this brief-but-spectacular holiday I raced back down into King William Street to see Jamie’s band “Gracewood” play in the Battle Of The Bands at the Bull & Bear. I knew Jamie was a neat little bass player, but I was genuinely blown away by the professionalism of this band. Happily, they won the contest – and too bloody right too, with the quality of those tunes. Plus, as an extra bonus, I randomly ran into Fluffy Sarah: who I hadn’t seen since Tim & Chelsea’s wedding!
- The night was still young, so I returned to Spiro’s place for another beer, an Iced Coffee, and a quick easy jaunt into the Adelaide foothills. We dispensed with the tradition of hoiking it up to Mt Lofty or Woodhouse, but instead climbed up to a water tank with views over Adelaide & took some photos, waxed philosophical, and passed over to the relief shift who arrived with a laptop loaded with Cheech & Chong movies. The future’s in safe hands.
- Monday morning despite temporal ineptitude I managed to make it into Najjar’s for a coffee with El Gringo Browny. Seemed silly to have breakfast beers, after all.
- Later that day Marty & I saddled up into the mighty Blue Falcon and cruised back up the Freeway (again) to Ryan’s hillside lair, and met with Kieran, Mike, Rob and Whisky Bill: part high school reunion, and part shithouse-philosophy session, it was a genuinely top afternoon and we genuinely made a hole in a couple of cartons of beer.
- As man can’t live on bread alone (even if it is one of the more liquid interpretations of the same ingredients) we decamped up to the Aldgate Pump Hotel, and semi-randomly ran into Nikko & Tine in the beer garden. We also met Mark & Tanya, who we had arranged to see and were thus less surprised by (although I was a little surprised, given how many failed meetup plans Tanya & I had made already). The pub grub in Aldgate was marvellous, and I was at last given the opportunity to order something called “a small Parmageddon”.
- On Tuesday my health-conscious diet continued, with a schnitzel with the old Aspect lads (Big Stevie V, Captain Duregon, and Wild Crazy Mad Dog Nicolitsi). At this point I was fearful of cutting myself shaving in the next day or so, lest melted mozzarella start seeping forth from within my veins. As Sam & I were the Gentlemen of Leisure for the day we thought we’d stick around at the Earl of Leicester a little longer and sample some more of their choice offerings. And a fine thing it was/am/were.
- Next stop was out in the mystic North Eastern Quadrant to visit DB: a personage I’ve not seen for quite some time. We did the Grand Tour of his excellent new home, and of course held a free-ranging discussion on many topics, such as is our wont. Dave offered me a Coopers Pale Ale, and it seemed foolish to refuse. The lovely Samantha arrived home after a shortish while, and I finally got to meet her too.
- There’s no point in doing things in a logical sensible way, and to that end the next step was obviously to head to Prospect to collect Martacus, then down to Glenelg for a mexican feast at Gringo’s with Kerri & Kelly. After dinner we retired to a nearby hostelry for a few refreshments, and to watch the local youths embark on their tribal courting rituals.
- Wednesday’s mission was to head to the Southern side of town to visit my partner-in-crime from our old I.T.&e. days, Commander Qüntley Fortescue. So that was cool – a trip to the Clarendon Bakery for some health-conscious grub, as well as a couple of beers, and a load of prattling & swearing. Truth be known, I only set that all up as an excuse to see his wife Sarah, cos she’s lovely. Their new kid’s cute, too.
- But it wasn’t long before the time came to head back into town to meet up with Lee & Kerry for a pre-Christmas aperitif: there just really isn’t enough time on these holidays, I swear. As always, it was excellent to see them and touch base – an opportunity we’ve not had since they came to England a couple of years ago. Nicko & Kelly joined us as well, and as was customary by this point I was late to arrive as while I was parking the car I encountered my old high school mate Mr Benji Callen. Or maybe it’s Dr.
- The high school coincidences weren’t to end there however: The Lovely Virginia invited me out for a splendid Thai meal on Unley Road, and as a followup maneuvre we walked up to The Earl of Leicester (again) for post-dinner beverages – somehow convincing her flatmate to join us. Upon arrival at the famed boozer, who should we run into but Mr Giulio Harding – from the same vintage as the good Mr/Dr Callen – freshly arrived back from Tokyo! He was accompanied by some mates, including Mr Daniel Hardy, who I’d seen at the pub session at the Wellington earlier but not really had a chance to chat to. Similarly here I don’t think we talked extensively, but then I’m still feeling sheepish about having not returned his CD of Polish Sea Shanties for about 10 months.
- The main event of Christmas Eve (day) was – after a slightly delayed start – jumping in the car with Winnie, Lou & Suzi and heading down to winelovers’ paradise McLaren Vale for lunch at d’Arenberg Winery. When I sing the Australian national anthem and get to the phrase “beauty rich and rare”, it’s things like this that spring to mind – the food was amazing, the wine was breathtaking (we knocked over about 3 bottles of The Peppermint Paddock Sparkling Chambourcin), and the company was just the sort of group that I enjoy spending an elongated summer lunch with. After lunch we rolled out and mosied up the road to another oenological gem, Samuel’s Gorge Winery. It’s moments like that which really make a guy lament the wine carriage limit back to the UK. And that afternoons can’t last forever.
- The final instalment of Christmas Eve was to head out North East again to the excellent Anglo-styled environs of The Fox & Firkin, to join the old Anstey lads (TimO, Westy, B2, etc.) for a bit of Christmas cheer, and then relocated up to Gav’s place to press on into the small hours. We were joined by Martacus, and Mr Ling, and we picked up Mr Brooker along the way too – a thoroughly excellent way to carry on.
- (At 2500 words, we’ll give Christmas Day a miss here & press straight through)
- A tradition on Boxing Day is Ange’s Birthday Picnic in the Botanic Gardens, and seeing as Ange & Bruce were over from France it seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue the tradition – and that’s where I went! Quite a cheery little gathering: I wasn’t organised enough to bring picnic food, but with some deft phone work I managed to convince Martacus to pick up a couple of The Falafel House’s finest on his way in. Another fine collection of people I’ve not seen in a while, and the rigours of time made the whole thing far too rushed an affair. Kylie J happened through, so it was good to see her, and a bit of a highlight was getting to spend a bit of time chatting in person with Katie (who was breezing through Radelaide and our paths chanced to cross). And across from New Zealand was Doc Brown, who is always one of my favourite people to exchange notes with – even better when there isn’t a keyboard involved. Young Toby made an appearance too, so there was a nice convergence of people returning from their various meanderings around the glode. “Travelling Dillberries”, my mum might say. And for a 3rd lucky spotting, Mr Hardy was in the vicinity.
- Another Boxing Day tradition is the BBQ at Chateau Davis, so back to the southern hills it was – but as always the experience was worth the trip. Even though we were pretty late to the party there was still opportunity to see Karen & Spewin’, Aunty Jean & Bill, Bret, Dylan, Andy, Captain Cam, Bec, Lucy, and the ever-gorgeous Miss Julie. Oh, and we had to put up with Scott, too. Still, credit where credit’s due – he managed to pull off *the* most incredible stack as he descended the stairs to the pool. No idea how he fell over on such a flat surface, but that’s part of The Joy of Scott.
- With excellence of forethought, the next step was to go back into town to The Grace Emily to see Fi & Ben, who were just over from Canberra. Any night in the ‘Grace is a good one, and none moreso than this! Happily it turned out Winnie was also there occupying his usual corner, and Mr Hardy and Mr Corkindale both turned up as well!
- On the 27th, with sunset metaphorically dawning on my trip, the Fewster Clan announced that they were gathering up at Belair National Park, and as my only window of opportunity to see them I raced up there with abandon to spend a little time with Andrew & Sarah. Upon arriving it was also a pleasant surprise to see Mike & Cath, Matt & Taara, Kirrily – and all of their assorted progeny – and Helen & Johan (who I’m still not sure whether we encountered randomly or not). The phrase which summed up the afternoon was by now the well-worn “brief, but spectacular”, and it left me truly grinning like a Cheshire Cat to see everyone looking so healthy, happy & content.
- No time to lose however as the next step was dinner in Gawler with Joann & Dave. If there was ever a point at which my lack of spatial awareness was illustrated, it was here. Not since the great Bridgewater-to-Salisbury dash have I made such a ballsup of timing, but it wasn’t the only ballsup of the evening, as Joann had forgotten that she’d invited me for dinner, and so everyone had eaten already… meaning I was rewarded with KFC. That splendid fellow Jomartz & I nipped into the heaving centre of Gawler for supplies, and managed to procure 6 Pale Ales to take back, so it wasn’t a complete epicurean failure. Just as well it’s a good job I enjoy hanging out with those guys…
- The 28th was my little nephew Harper’s 4th birthday, so hanging out with him & his mates was a bit of a trip.
- The next part of the plan was originally to pop in & visit Catherine Campbell, but in an organisational stuffup she wasn’t home, so I took the chance to pop over to Nick & Kel’s place to see Bob and Billie and their lovely kids. Convert to WIN!
- Afterwards Mum & Dad & I went out for a spot of dinner at the same place Virginia & I had gone a couple of days before. Dad was clearly in the mood for steak, but with a Mighty Steak lined up for the night I got to Melbourne I was having a bit of a red meat hiatus.
- Another pub I’d been meaning to check out at some stage was The Coopers Alehouse – which anyone of my vintage or older would habitually refer to as The Earl of Aberdeen, because that’s what it was called, dammit! – because I’d heard that they had aged Coopers Sparkling Ale on English-style handpumps. Fortuitously, Fi & Ben were in session at that very place, so my post-dinner sharpener was sorted! I was quite disappointed with the Sparkling Ale: it was more than likely the “flatness” of it, because after all – it’s meant to be SPARKLING… In either case, we had plenty of chatting to do to take our minds off weirdo beer, and we were transfixed by the sight of the MASSIVE cockroaches that were running around on the road. You could ride one of them home, seriously.
- The 29th, being my last full day in Adelaide, was fairly heavily taken up with sifting through boxes of my stuff that were in storage and earmarking most of it for the tip or the Salvo’s. There was time, however, to pop out that morning to North Adelaide for a coffee or 2 with someone I’ve not seen in a *very* long time – Ms B Warnes! We kinda let catching up run away with us, because a “quickish” coffee turned into 2 hours in no time. Just as well we didn’t go for beers, although at that time of day I guess you’re unlikely to…
- And just because it was a nice day and not quite enough people had paid full attention to me yet, that night we fired up the barbie and burnt some meat in the back yard in the traditional Australian way. And just for something different, we threw a couple of beers back with it! Now, one of the drawbacks of writing this out over a month after the event is that remembering exactly who was there is a bit of an uphill push: I know for sure that we had Martacus, Nicklearse, Kelly, Roie, Mr Ling, Mike, Doc Brown, Rohan, Mike, Cath, and a late appearance by Ryan… and my earlier assertion of a red meat hiatus was immediately proven incorrect, with happily massive amounts of bangers, kangaroo, and lamb shaslicks, and Nicklearse invoked the Aussie Cliche by putting – for the first time at one of my events, I’m sure – some prawns on the barbie!
- About the only things I’ve glossed over, and again it’s largely because my memory of when it took place is sketchy at best, is the various evenings when I was staying at Nicko & Kel’s place and would stumble in around midnight, then we’d crack open a nice red or something and fire up the Wii for various contests of gaming prowess – the dancemat thingo was tantrum inducing, the zombie shooty game was a bit boring for me because I didn’t have a gun-shaped holder for my control so it felt like zapping hordes of the undead with a remote control, but by far the best thing was the film trivia game – Scene It! – where Nicko & I faced off like Chuck Norris against Bruce Lee.
- And then the nights I was staying out at Martacus’s place would typically finish in that time-honoured way: sitting around in the backyard in deckchairs, talking philosophy and sinking back bottles of Coopers Dark Ale.
Now, aren’t you glad I decided to do the short version?
Upon leaving Adelaide, I headed to Melbourne for a few days. But that’s another story.